If there’s one adjective in the world that does not describe me, it’s ‘patient.‘
I love efficiency, and ‘wasting time’ is just not my thing at all. The Husband actually had to teach me how to just sit on the couch and relax.
*Although, right now I’m sitting on the couch and watching March Madness while writing this blog entry, so I guess I’m still not exactly ‘relaxing.’ (I am drinking a glass of wine, though, so I think I’m getting there).
But, I think God decided teach me a bit about patience when he sent me and the Husband to Africa. Well, I guess i shouldn’t say he sent us to Africa, exactly, but he did put it on my heart to spend our honeymoon volunteering in Tanzania, and away we went!
For those of you who haven’t been to Africa, you may not have heard of the acronym TIA, but it stands for ‘This is Africa,’ and is a phrase used to adjust expectations when plans change. Like ‘oh they said they would be here three Tuesdays ago and I still haven’t heard from them… TIA!’ Seriously, one lady there (a former volunteer who decided to move to Tanzania indefinitely) didn’t have electricity for weeks because the electric company just didn’t show up. ‘TIA!’
While nothing like that happened to us, there were some times where my patience was definitely tested. Like…
// When we were trying to buy corn, firewood and sugar for our students. Hundreds of pounds of it. We couldn’t speak Swahili, so we had our principal go with us to do the negotiating. The ‘negotiating’ involved a lot of pausing, looking stern, and nodding. For 10 minutes. Then the store owner or the principal would say another sentence and they would both stare at each other and nod some more. This went on for 30 minutes to buy the corn. Then 20 more minutes for firewood. Then a few more minutes for the sugar. I was waiting in the 100+ degree heat and was not happy, not happy at all. I know I should have had a positive attitude, but I just couldn’t muster up any positive thoughts. It feels very disconcerting to be at the mercy of others’ negotiations in an unfamiliar language when it comes to spending a large sum of money for supplies. Especially because the price of these supplies went up since the mini-negotiations the day before! But, in the end we were able to buy the supplies for the porridge and, of course, the wait, the heat and the discomfort were very worth it.
// Riding the dala dalas every morning and evening. We had to take public transportation to the school we volunteered at. This public transportation consisted of minivans that would pull over on the side of the road and drivers who would shove as many people into the vans as humanly possible. There were no actual bus stops, no schedules, just a bit of disorganized moving of bodies from point to point. There were times of foul odors, high temperatures, and confusion. There were times when I didn’t know how one more person would fit in the vehicle and they would find a way. At one point we had 22 people in a 12 person vehicle and it was not comfortable. But, we got through it and I have a new appreciation for how not crowded Chicago’s buses are.
// Eating the food. Generally, I loved the food, but it wasn’t like the food at home. Especially noticeable was that there was no dairy products (I got the sense that in Tanzania they eat cows, they don’t milk them). Now, I love cheese and butter, so it was a bit of a sacrifice to not eat my ‘normal’ foods. However, my body thanked me for it.
// Showering. Even more than I love cheese and dairy products, I love a good, long, hot shower. In Africa, there was not always hot water, but we were blessed to be in a volunteer house that had running, hot water sometimes. So, as I was crouched on the bottom of the shower so that I could fit under the faucet (there was better pressure there, instead of turning on the shower head), surrounded by bugs, I prayed for patience…and that a spider wouldn’t crawl on me, but mostly for patience.
// Teaching students. There were 20 students in a classroom and they understood a little to no English. These little guys and gals were 7 years old and generally liked to cause a bit of chaos whenever possible. There were no lesson plans, no workbooks, no directions, no pencils/pens or erasers. There were a few pieces of chalk and a painted chalkboard on the wall and that was it. It was challenging to hold the students’ attention and attempt to teach them anything, that’s for sure!
// The entire bathroom situation. I’m seriously shocked that I don’t have a bladder infection from that trip. We couldn’t go to the bathroom at the school because it was just too filthy. I have a serious aversion to peeing outside, so on the safari I chose borderline dehydration. And then the squatters at the camp… I shudder when I think about them. Granted, I am not the outdoorsy type, so I’m a bit of a huge wuss when it comes to wilderness bathroom breaks, but I just like western toilets. Spoiled, I know. I was a trooper (or at least I tried to be), but it was still a test in tolerance!
This was one of the nicer bathrooms we found! It was in a gas station.
Let me say, our entire experience (honeymoon) in Africa was beyond incredible. We loved almost every second of our trip and were so enriched while we were there. We received way more than we gave and it was truly an experience that I think of daily and would recommend to every single person, should they have the opportunity to go. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain challenges that go along with it. I am the first to admit that I live a privileged and spoiled life and being in Africa was super uncomfortable at times, and a test in patience and tolerance every single day. It was through these moments of discomfort that I became acutely aware of how blessed I am every single day.
That’s the great thing about traveling, it takes us out of our comfort zones, stretches us to do things we may have thought were impossible, and enriches us through indescribable experiences. The best thing for me about traveling with the Husband is that we can share these experiences and become enriched together. And for that, I feel thankful and blessed.
Thanks, Africa, for giving me the opportunity to learn a bit about patience.